Combat sports:take care of your joints, bones and cartilage!

Part 1: Interest of joint protection in combat sports

The joints connect the bones together and thus ensure the mobility of our skeleton. As a result, they are constantly in demand. A joint is made up of cartilage, a capsule and ligaments. The cartilage covers the bony parts and thus ensures a balanced distribution of the pressures exerted on the joint. This is enclosed in a capsule. It is lined with a membrane called synovium, which secretes a liquid that lubricates the joint to limit friction. Finally, there are the ligaments, short bands of tissue connecting the bones together, and the tendons connecting the bone to a muscle and thus allowing the movement of the joint. There are about 400 joints in the human body (1)(2), so you have to take care of them!

The importance of sport for the joints

One study demonstrated that the amount of cartilage is minor compared to bone within a joint, and thus the longevity of joint cartilage depends on the amount of force the joint has to withstand (3). The bone is therefore an attenuator, and helps to spare the articular cartilage from shocks. Sports activity is very important to maintain a functional cartilaginous capital, otherwise the joint loses trophicity. But be careful not to push the effort too far, because intensive sport can lead to osteoarthritis by increasing cartilage stress, especially when it comes to a sport involving impacts, jumps or even joint twists ( 4). Similarly, regular physical activity helps maintain bone density. But nutrition is just as important, and will be covered in a second article.

Playing sports works your muscles, and muscles are essential for joints. Indeed, they surround them and provide them with the energy necessary to be mobile. This energy passes through the tendons which connect the muscles to the bones, and allow movement. Thus muscle tension is a key factor in producing joint movement, and it can be released by stretching (5). Stretching should be done as a sports session at a time slot in the week, and not directly after exercise.

Joints/bones and combat sports

Combat sports have many benefits for the body, especially for the bones and muscles. However, they put a lot of strain on the joints. It is not uncommon for the practice of these sports to cause injuries such as sprains, tendinitis or fractures. These injuries are caused by the mechanical energy that occurs when the body experiences an overload that exceeds the ability of the joint to regenerate or adapt, often as a result of an accident or excessive use (6) (7). The regular practice of combat sports generates repeated hyperpressure which damages the cartilage of the joints and promotes their premature aging (8). For example, in boxing, as in other striking combat sports, hand and wrist injuries are very common, particularly because of the blows given (6)(9). Indeed, the joints of the hand are immobilized thanks to the protections worn by the boxers which causes shock absorption by the wrist which will sag under the load (10). Thus, repeated blows can damage the joint and lead to the appearance of pain and bone deformities. According to various studies, the main factors involved in the onset of injuries are excessive or inappropriate sports practice and inadequate diet (7). It is thus possible to prevent the occurrence of these injuries through prevention and by taking particular care with your diet.

A few tips to remember

To keep your joints healthy, a few simple tips can be applied (11)(12)(13):

  1. Pay attention to your weight, in case of overweight the joints will have to support more load.
  2. Stay active, even when we are glued to the computer in telework for example, it is important to take breaks to stretch or walk a little to prevent the joints from being stiff.
  3. Working the muscles allows the joints not to support the weight of our body alone. However, be careful not to exceed the limit, otherwise muscle pain can cause joint pain. In this case, ice is to be used because it relieves the pain.
  4. Warm up before physical exertion.
  5. Pay attention to recovery times.
  6. Hydrate well.
  7. Allocate time in the week for stretching.
  8. Do not forget to have a healthy and complete diet. Consuming NØKO post-training will allow you to provide your body with all the nutrients necessary for good joints.

In the case of fragile joints, in order to preserve them, it is essential to practice any sporting activity with light restraints, or even to use specific protections (14).


(1) The role of joints:

(2) Joint:

(3) Importance of bone in sparing articular cartilage from impact:

(4) Impact of physical activity on joints, bone and muscle:

(5) How stretching keeps your joint moving

(6) Analysis of combat sports players’ injuries according to playing style for sports physiotherapy research:

(7) Risk factors and injury prevention in elite athletes: a descriptive study of the opinions of physical therapists, doctors and trainers:

(8) Unknown dangers of martial arts and combat sports: example of mechanical stress on the joints:

(9) Boxing injury epidemiology in the Great Britain team: a 5-year surveillance study of medically diagnosed injury incidence and outcome:

(10) Hand and wrist injuries in elite boxing:

(11) 5 things you can do to keep your joints healthy:

(12) Caring for your joints:

(13) Combat sports injuries: how to prevent and avoid them

(14) Joints: how to protect them